SOLOMON. Arabic Sulaiman سليمان
Heb Shelomoh Both according to the Qur’an and the Muslim commentators, Solomon was celebrated for his skill and wisdom The following is the account given of him in the Qur’an with the commentators’ remarks in italics, as given in Mr Lane’s Selection from the Kur’an (2nd ed. by Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole):—
“And We subjected unto Solomon the wind, blowing strongly, and being light at his desire, which ran at his command to the land that We blessed (namely Syria), and We knew all things (knowing that what We gave him would stimulate him to be submissive to his Lord). And We subjected, of the devils, those who should dive for him in the, sea and bring forth from it jewels for him, and do other work besides that, that is, building, and performing other services and We watched over them, that they might not spoil what they executed; for they used, when they had finished a work before night, to spoil it, if they were not employed in something else.” (Surah xxi. 81,82.)
“We gave unto David. Solomon his son. How excellent a servant was he! For he was one who earnestly turned himself unto God, glorifying and praising Him at all times. Remember when in the latter part of the day, after the commencement of the declining of the sun, the mares standing on three feet and touching the ground with the edge of the forth foot, swift in the course, were displayed before him. They were a thousand mares, which were displayed before him after he had performed the noon-prayers, on the occasion of his desiring to make use of them in a holy war; and when nine hundred of them had been displayed, the sun set, and he had not performed the afternoon prayers. So he was grieved, and he said, Verily I have preferred to the love of earthly goods above the remembrance of my Lord, (that is, the performance of the afternoon prayers), so that the sun is concealed by the veil. Bring them (namely the horses) back unto me. Therefore they brought them back. And he began to sever with his sword the legs and the necks, slaughtering them, and editing off their legs, as a sacrifice unto God, and gave their flesh in alms; and God gave him in compensation what was better than they were and swifter, namely the wind, which travelled by his command whithersoever he desired. And We tried Solomon by depriving him of his kingdom. This was because he married a woman of whom he became enamoured, and she used to worship an idol in his pa/ace without his knowledge. His dominion was in his signet; and he pulled it off once and deposited it with ins wife, who was named El-Emeeneh (Aminah), and a jinnee came unto her in the form of Solomon, and took it from her. And We placed upon his throne a counterfeit body namely that jinnee, who was Sakhr (Sakhr), or another He sat upon the throne of Solomon, and the birds and other creatures surrounded him; and Solomon went forth, with a changed appearance, and saw him upon his throne, and said unto the people, I am Solomon :-—but they denied him. Then he returned unto his kingdom, after some days, having obtained the signet and put it on, and seated himself upon his throne. He said, O my, Lord, forgive me, and give me a dominion that may not be to anyone at after me (or beside me); for Thou art the Liberal Giver. So We subjected unto him the wind, which ran gently at his command whithersoever he desired, and the devils also, every builder of wonderful structures, and diver that brought up pearls from the sea, and others bound in chains which connected their hands to their necks And We said unto him, This is Our gift, and bestow thou thereof upon whomsoever thou wilt, or refrain from bestowing, without rendering an account And verily for him was ordained a high rank with Us and an excellent retreat. (Surah xxxviii. 29—39.)
“We bestowed on David and Solomon knowledge in judging men and in the language of the birds and other matters, and they said, Praise be to God who hath made us to excel many of His believing servants, by the gift of prophecy and by the subjection of the jinn and mankind and the devils. And Solomon. inherited from David the gift of prophecy and knowledge, and he said, O men, we have been taught the language of the birds, and have had bestowed on us of everything wherewith prophet and kings are gifted. Verily this is manifest excellence. And his armies of jinn and men and birds were gathered together unto Solomon, and they were led on in order, until, when they came unto to valley of the ants, (which was at at Et-Taif [at-Taif], or in Syria, the ants whereof were small or great), an ant (the queen of the ants) having seen the troops of Solomon, said, O ants, enter your habitations, lest Solomon and his troops crush you violently, while they perceive not. And Solomon smiled, after laughing at her saying, which he heard from the distance of three miles, the wind conveying it to him: so he withheld his forces came in sight of their valley, until the ants had entered their dwellings: and his troops were on horses and on foot in this expedition. And he said, O my Lord, inspire me to be thankful for Thy favour which Thou hast bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to do righteousness which Thou shalt approve, and admit me, in Thy mercy, among Thy servants, the righteous, the prophets and the saints.
“And he examined the birds, that he might see the lap-wing, that saw the water beneath the earth, and directed to it by pecking the earth, whereupon the devils used to draw it forth when Solomon wanted it to perform the ablution for prayer; but he saw it not: and ho said, Wherefore do I not see the lap-wing? Is it one of the absent? And when he was certain of the case he said, I will assuredly punish it with a severe punishment, by plucking out its feathers and its tail and casting it in the sun so that it shall not be able to guard against excessive thirst; or I will slaughter it; or it shall bring me a manifest convincing proof showing its excuse. And it tarried not long before it presented itself unto Solomon submissively, and raised its head and relaxed its tail and its wings: so he forgave it; and he asked it what it had met with during its absence; and it said, I have become acquainted, with that wherewith thou hut not become acquainted, and I have come unto thee from Seba (a tribe of El-Yemen) with a sure piece of news. I found a woman reigning over them, named Bilkees (Bilqis), and she hath been gifted with everything that princes require, and hath a magnificent throne. (Its length was eighty cubit., and its breadth, forty cubits; and its height, thirty cubits: it was composed of gold and silver set with fine pearls and with rubies and chrysolites, and its legs were of rubies and chrysolites and emeralds: upon it were closed seven doors: to each chamber through which one passed to it was a closed door.). I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of God, and the devil hath made their works to seem comely unto them, so that he hath hindered them from the right way, wherefore they are not rightly directed to the worship of God, who produceth what is hidden (namely, the rain and vegetables) in the heavens and the earth, and knoweth what they [that is, mankind and others] conceal in their hearts, and what they reveal with their tongues. God: there is no deity bet He, the Lord of the magnificent throne, between which and the throne of Bilkees is a vast difference.
Solomon said to the lapwing, We will see whether thou hast spoken truth or whether thou art of the liars. Then the lapwing guided them to the water, and it was drawn forth by the devils; and they quenched their thirst and performed the ablution and prayed. Then Solomon wrote a letter, the form whereof was this :—From the servant of God, Solomon the son of David, to Bilkees the queen of Seba. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Peace be on whomsoever followeth the right direction. After , this salutation, I say, Act ye not proudly towards me; but come unto ins submitting. He then sealed it with musk, and stamped it with his signet, and said unto the lapwing, Go with this my letter and throw it down unto them (namely Bilkees and her people): then turn away from them, but stay near them, and see what reply they will return. So the lapwing took it, and came unto her, and around her were her forces; and he threw it down into her lap; and when she saw it, she trembled with fear. Then she considered what was in it, and she said unto the nobles of her people, O nobles, an honourable (sealed) letter hath been thrown down unto me. It is from Solomon; and it is this In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Act ye not proudly towards me: but come unto me submitting.—She said, O nobles, advise me in mine affair. I will not decide upon a thing unless ye bear me witness.—They replied, We are endowed with strength and endowed with great valour; but the command belongeth to thee; therefore see what thou wilt command us to do, and we will obey thee. She said, Verily kings, when they enter a city, waste it, and render the mighty of its inhabitants abject; and thus will they do who have sent the letter. But I will send unto them with a gift, and I will see with what the messengers will return, whether the gift will be accepted, or whether it will be rejected. If he be merely a king, he will accept at; and if he be a prophet, he will not accept it. And she sent male and female servants, a thousand in equal numbers, five hundred of each sex, and five hundred bricks of gold. and a crown set with jewels, and music and ambergris and other things, by a messenger with a letter. And the lapwing hastened unto Solomon, to tell him the news; on hearing, which, he commanded that bricks of gold and silver should be cast, and that a horse-course should be extended to the length of nine leagues from tile place where he was, and that they should build around it a wall with battlements, of gold and silver, and that the handsomest of the beasts of the land and of the sea should be brought with tile sons of the jinn on the right, side of the horse-course and on its left.
“And when the messenger came with the gift, and with him his attendants, unto Solomon, he (Solomon) said, Do ye aid me with wealth? But what God hath given me (namely the gift of prophecy and the kingdom) is better than what he has given you, of worldly goods; yet ye rejoice in your gift, because ye glory in the showy things of this world. Return unto them with the gift that thou hast brought; for we will surely come unto them with forces with which they have not power to contend, and we will surely drive them out from it, (that is, from their country, Seba., which was named after the father of their tribe), subject and contemptible, if they come not unto us submitting. And when the messenger returned unto her with the gift, she placed her throne within seven doors, within her palace, and her palace was within seven palaces; and’ she closed the doors, and set guards to them, and prepared to go unto Solomon, that site might see what he would command her to do She departed with twelve thousand kings, each king having with him ninny thousands, and proceeded until she came as near to him as a league’s distance; when he knew of her approach, he said, O nobles, which of you will bring unto me her throne before they come unto me submitting? An ‘efreet (‘Ifrit) of the Jinn, answered, I will bring it unto thee before thou shall arise from thy place wherein thou sittest to judge from morning until mid— day; for I am able to do it, and trustworthy with respect to the jewels that it compriseth and other matters, Solomon said, I desire it more speedily. And thereupon he with whom was knowledge of the revealed scripture (namely his Wezeer, Asaf the son of Barkhiya, who was a just person, acquainted with the most great name of God, which ensured an answer to him who invoked thereby) said, I will bring it unto thee before thy glance can be withdrawn from any object. And he said unto him, Look at the sky. So he looked at it; then he withdrew his glance, and found it placed before him: for during his look towards the sky, Asaf prayed, by the most great name, that God would bring it; and if so happened, the throne passing under the ground until it came up before the throne of Solomon. And when he saw it firmly placed before him, he said, This is the favour of my Lord, that He may try me, whether I shall be thankful or whether I shall be unthankful. And he who is thankful is thankful for the sake of his own soul, which will have the reward of his thankfulness; and as to him who is ungrateful, my Lord is independent and bountiful.
Solomon said, Alter ye her throne so that it may. not be known by her, that we may see whether she be rightly directed to the knowledge thereof, or whether she be of those who are not rightly directed to the knowledge of that which is altered. He desired thereby to try her intelligence. So they altered it, by adding to it, or taking from it, or in some other manner. And when she came, it was said unto her, Is thy throne like this? She answered, As though it were the same. She answered them ambiguously like as they had questioned her ambiguously, not saying, is this thy throne? — and had they so said, she had answered, Yes.) And when Solomon saw her knowledge, he said, And we have had knowledge bestowed on us before her, and have been Muslims. But what she worshipped instead of God hindered her from worshipping Him; for she was of an unbelieving people. It was said unto her also, Enter the palace. (It had a floor of white transparent glass, beneath which was running water, wherein wire fish. Solomon had made it on its being said unto him that her legs and feet were hairy, like the legs of an ass. And when she saw it, she imagined it to be a great water, and she uncovered her legs, that she might wade through it; and Solomon was on his throne at the upper end of the palace, and he saw that her legs and her feet were handsome. He said unto her, Verily it is a palace evenly spread with glass. And he invited her to embrace El-Islam, where-upon she said, O my Lord, verily I have acted unjustly towards mine own soul, by worshipping another than Thee, and I resign myself, with Solomon unto God, the Lord of the worlds. And he desired to marry her; but he disliked the hair upon, her legs; so the devils made for him the depilatory of quick-lime, wherewith site removed the hair, and he married her; and he loved her, and confirmed her in her kingdom. He used to visit her every month once, and to remain with her three days.; and her reign expired on the expiration of the reign of Solomon, it is related that he began to reign when he was thirteen years of age, and died at the age of three and fifty years. Extolled be the perfection of Him to the duration of whose dominion there is no end!” (Surah xxvii. 15—45.)
We subjected unto Solomon the wind, which travelled in the morning (unto the period when the sun began to decline) the distance of a month’s journey, and in the evening from the commencement of the declining of the sun into its setting) a month’s journey. And We made the fountain of molten brass to flow for him three days with their nights in every month, as water floweth; and the people worked until the day of its flowing, with that which had been given unto Solomon. And of the jinn were those who worked in his presence, by the will of his Lord, and such of them as swerved from obedience to Our command We will cause to taste of the punishment of hell in the world to come (or, as it is said by some, We cause to taste of its punishment in the present world, an angel beating them with a scourge from hell the stripe of which burneth them). They made for him whatever be pleased, of lofty halls (with steps whereby to ascend to them), and images (for they were not forbidden by his law), and large dishes, like great tanks for watering camels, around each of which assembled a thousand men, eating from it and cooking-pots standing firmly on their legs, cut out from the mountains in El-Yemen, and to which they ascended by ladders And We said, Work, O family of David, in the service of God, with thanksgiving unto Him for what He hath given you : — but few of My servants are the thankful. And when We decreed that he (namely Solomon) should die and he died, and remained standing and leaning upon his staff for a year, dead, the jinn meanwhile performing those difficult works as they were accustomed to do, not knowing of his death, until the worm ate his staff, whereupon he fell down, nothing showed them his death but the eating reptile (the worm) that are his staff. And when he fell down, the jinn plainly perceived that if they had known things unseen (of which things was the death of Solomon), they had not continued in the ignominious affliction (that is in their difficult works), imaginary that he was alive, inconsistently with their opinion that they knew things unseen. And that the period was a year was known by calculating what the worm had eaten of his staff since his death in each day and night or other space of time.”) (Surah xxxiv. 11—13.)
Mr. Sale, quoting from the commentators al-Jalalan and al-Baizawi, has the following remarks on the foregoing account of Solomon:—
“Some say the spirits made him (Solomon) two lions, which were placed at the foot of his throne; and two eagles, which were set above it; and that when he mounted it, the lions stretched-out; their paws; and when he sat down, the eagles shaded him with their wings; and that he had a carpet of green silk, on which his throne was placed, being of a prodigious length and breadth, and sufficient for all his forces to stand on, the men placing themselves on his right hand, and the spirits [or jinn] on his left; and that when all were in order, the wind at his command took up the carpet and transported it with all that wore upon it wherever ho pleased; the army of birds at the same time flying over their heads and forming a kind of canopy to shade them from the sun. The commentators toll us that David, having laid the foundations of the Temple of Jerusalem, which was to be in lieu of the tabernacle of Mages, when he died, left it to be finished by his son Solomon, who employed the genii in the work; that Solomon, before the edifice was quite completed, perceiving his end, drew nigh, begged of God that his death might be concealed from the genii till they had entirely finished it; that God therefore so ordered it that Solomon died as he stood at his prayers, leaning on his staff, which supported the body in that posture a full year; and the genii, supposing him to be alive, continued their work during that term, at the expiration whereof, the temple being perfectly completed, a worm, which had gotten into the staff, ate it through, and the corpse fell to the ground and discovered the king’s death. That after the space of forty days, which was the time the image had been worshipped in his house, the devil flew away, and throw the signet into the sea: the signet was immediately swallowed by a fish, which being taken and given to Solomon, he found the ring in its belly and, having by this means recovered the kingdom, took Sakhr, and, tying a great stone to his neck, threw him into the Lake of Tiberias. The Arab historians tell us that Solomon, having flushed the Temple of Jerusalem, went in pilgrimage to Makkah, where having stayed as long as he pleased, he proceeded towards al-Yaman; and leaving Makkah in the morning he arrived by noon at San’a', and being extremely delighted with the country rested there; but wanting water to make the ablution, he looked among the birds for the lapwing which found it for him. Some say that Bilqis, to try whether Solomon was a prophet or not, drest the boys like girls and the girls like boys, and sent him in a casket a pearl not drilled and an onyx drilled with a crooked hole; and that Solomon distinguished the boys from the girls by the different manner of their taking water, and ordered one worm to bore the pearl, and another to pass a thread through the onyx.”
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam